When it comes to our children’s education, my husband and I usually see eye-to-eye. Until recently. We don’t agree that there will come a time in our youngest son’s life when we will be able to say goodbye to his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). He has an IEP due to social/emotional delays. Some of his delays are there because he moved twelve times within the first four years of his life. Some are there because of his mood disorder, but both can be overcome with patience and practice.
The reason I believe he will not need an IEP in the near future is because he is making great strides in catching up to his peers when it comes to social skills. He is starting to accept help from others. He is able to advocate for himself and walk away when he gets frustrated, instead of lashing out physically when angry. He went to Boy Scout camp for six days and was able to listen to leaders and participate in activities.
My husband believes that the IEP protects him, and that we should never get rid of something that protects our children. My husband believes that because our son’s IEP states he has aggression issues that it will protect our son from any charges brought against him, if he happens to hit someone again. I agree, we do need to do whatever is necessary to protect our children, but an IEP will not really protect him from charges (or us getting sued if our son does real damage to another person).
In my opinion, there may come a time when our son needs to have real consequences for his actions. I am not saying I want to see my son in trouble with the law—that’s not it. I want him to understand that there are consequences for his actions and that a piece of paper is not always going to save him. I think he needs to understand that he cannot hide behind a piece of paper for the rest of his life or use his disability as an excuse for his actions. I have a mood disorder, but I have learned to control my impulses and he should be expected to do the same thing. If he cannot, then he needs to know there are consequences for his choices.
My husband and I will be talking more about this subject. I don’t want to get rid of his IEP right now. I believe because he is doing so well, and we hope will continue to do so, he will not have an IEP by the time he graduates from high school. I don’t want his IEP to follow him into adulthood, because his accommodations will not be able to be translated into the adult world. He is not going to be able to ask his boss if he can find a calm down spot because he doesn’t want to be reprimanded by his boss. He isn’t going to have a guaranteed person he can go to in order to vent and get guidance. His IEP will not protect him from assault charges if he slugs a co-worker or his boss. I personally think his IEP will do more harm than good if it follows him after high school.
Our son is a smart young man who will grow up to do wonderful things. I just don’t think he needs his IEP for too much longer. Now, our oldest son’s IEP will follow him, because his delays are academic and processing disorders. His IEP will help him in college and in the workplace. I also understand there are some who need an IEP after high school for social/emotional delays. I am not saying to get rid of everyone’s IEP; I am saying we need to get rid of our youngest son’s IEP.
Quite honestly, I believe every parent should sit down and think about their child’s future and ask the question, “Will my child’s IEP help my child or not?” It is important to answer the question with your brain and not your heart, or you won’t be doing your child any good. If I answered the question with my heart, I would say let’s keep it around. But logically I know he will not need it.
When you ask yourself this question, think about your child in middle school, high school, college, and as an adult. Will the accommodations help them as they mature, or will they simply give your child a crutch? Will the IEP truly be useful, or will it constrict their learning? Will the IEP help your child become a functioning member of society, or not?
It is important that our children can be adults on their own. (I know there are some with disabilities that hinder this, but I am talking about those who are not as severe.) I cannot follow my son for the rest of my life making sure he uses his calm-down techniques. He needs to learn to do this on his own. I cannot be a helicopter parent, but a parent who will support her children and allow them to make mistakes along the way.
[Photo credit to US Embassy Canada]
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